1 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. The siege began in the tenth month of the ninth year that Zedekiah ruled over Judah.#sn 2 Kgs 25:1 and Jer 52:4 give the more precise date of the tenth day of the tenth month of the ninth year which would have been Jan 15, 588 b.c. The reckoning is based on the calendar that begins the year in the spring (Nisan = March/April). 2 It lasted until the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year.#sn According to modern reckoning that would have been July 18, 586 b.c. The siege thus lasted almost a full eighteen months. On that day they broke through the city walls. 3 Then Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim, who was a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer, who was a high official,#tn English versions and commentaries differ on the number of officials named here and the exact spelling of their names. For a good discussion of the options see F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations (NAC), 341, n. 71. Most commentaries follow the general lead of J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 243) as the present translation has done here. However, the second name is not emended on the basis of v. 13 as Bright does, nor is the second Nergal-Sharezer regarded as the same man as the first and the information on the two combined as he does. The first Nergal-Sharezer is generally identified on the basis of Babylonian records as the man who usurped the throne from Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Awel-Marduk or Evil-Merodach as he is known in the OT (Jer 52:31; 2 Kgs 25:27). The present translation renders the two technical Babylonian terms “Rab-Saris” (only in Jer 39:3, 13; 2 Kgs 18:17) and “Rab-Mag” (only in Jer 39:3, 13) as “chief officer” and “high official” without knowing precisely what offices they held. This has been done to give the modern reader some feeling of their high position without specifying exactly what their precise positions were (i.e., the generic has been used for the [unknown] specific). and all the other officers of the king of Babylon came and set up quarters#tn Heb “sat.” The precise meaning of this phrase is not altogether clear, but J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 243) is undoubtedly correct in assuming that it had to do with setting up a provisional military government over the city. in the Middle Gate.#tn The Hebrew style here is typically full or redundant, giving a general subject first and then listing the specifics. The Hebrew text reads: “Then all the officers of the king of Babylon came and sat in the Middle Gate, Nergal-Sharezer…and all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon.” In the translation the general subject has been eliminated and the list of the “real” subjects used instead; this eliminates the dashes or commas typical of some modern English versions.sn The identification of the location of the Middle Gate is uncertain since it is mentioned nowhere else in the OT. 4 When King Zedekiah of Judah and all his soldiers saw them, they tried to escape. They departed from the city during the night. They took a path through the king’s garden and passed out through the gate between the two walls.#sn The king’s garden is mentioned again in Neh 3:15 in conjunction with the pool of Siloam and the stairs that go down from the city of David. This would have been in the southern part of the city near the Tyropean Valley which agrees with the reference to the “two walls” which were probably the walls on the eastern and western hills. Then they headed for the Jordan Valley.#sn Heb “toward the Arabah.” The Arabah was the rift valley north and south of the Dead Sea. Here the intention was undoubtedly to escape across the Jordan to Moab or Ammon. It appears from 40:14; 41:15 that the Ammonites were known to harbor fugitives from the Babylonians. 5 But the Babylonian#tn Heb “The Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation. army chased after them. They caught up with Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho#map For location see Map5-B2; Map6-E1; Map7-E1; Map8-E3; Map10-A2; Map11-A1. and captured him.#sn 2 Kgs 25:5 and Jer 52:8 mention that the soldiers all scattered from him. That is why the text focuses on Zedekiah here. They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Riblah#sn Riblah was a strategic town on the Orontes River in Syria. It was at a crossing of the major roads between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Pharaoh Necho had earlier received Jehoahaz there and put him in chains (2 Kgs 23:33) prior to taking him captive to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar had set up his base camp for conducting his campaigns against the Palestinian states there and was now sitting in judgment on prisoners brought to him. in the territory of Hamath and Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him there. 6 There at Riblah the king of Babylon had Zedekiah’s sons put to death while Zedekiah was forced to watch. The king of Babylon also had all the nobles of Judah put to death. 7 Then he had Zedekiah’s eyes put out and had him bound in chains#tn Heb “fetters of bronze.” The more generic “chains” is used in the translation because “fetters” is a word unfamiliar to most modern readers. to be led off to Babylon. 8 The Babylonians#tn Heb “Chaldean.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation. burned down the royal palace, the temple of the Lord, and the people’s homes,#tc The reading here is based on an emendation following the parallels in Jer 52:13 and 2 Kgs 25:9. The Hebrew text here does not have “the temple of the Lord” and reads merely “house of the people.” The text here is probably corrupt. It reads וְאֶת־בֵּית הָעָם (vÿ’et-bet ha’am, “and the house of the people”), which many explain as a collective use of בַּיִת (bayit). However, no parallels are cited by any of the commentaries, grammars, or lexicons for such a use. It is more likely that the words יְהוָה וְאֶת־בָּתֵּי (yÿhvah vÿ’et-bate) have fallen out of the text due to similar beginnings. The words וְאֶת־בֵּית יהוה (vÿ’et-bet yhwh) are found in the parallel texts cited in the marginal note. The Greek version is no help here because vv. 4-13 are omitted, probably due to the similarities in ending of vv. 3, 13 (i.e., homoioteleuton of מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל, melekh bavel). and they tore down the wall of Jerusalem.#sn According to the parallels in 2 Kgs 25:8-9; Jer 52:12-13 this occurred almost a month after the wall was breached and Zedekiah’s failed escape. It took place under the direction of Nebuzaradan, the captain of the king’s special guard who is mentioned in the next verse. 9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard,#tn For the meaning of this phrase see BDB 371 s.v. טַבָּח 2 and compare the usage in Gen 39:1. took captive the rest of the people who were left in the city. He carried them off to Babylon along with the people who had deserted to him.#tc The translation is based on an emendation of the text which leaves out “the rest of the people who were left” as a double writing of the same phrase at the beginning of the verse. Some commentators emend the phrase “the rest of the people who were left” (הַנִּשְׁאָרִים וְאֶת יֶתֶר הָעָם, hannish’arim vÿ’et yeter ha’am) to read “the rest of the craftsmen who were left” (וְאֶת יֶתֶר הָאָמוֹן הַנִּשְׁאָרִים, vÿ’et yeter ha’amon hannish’arim) on the basis of the parallel in Jer 52:15 (which does not have הַנִּשְׁאָרִים, hannish’arim). However, it is easier to explain the phrase as a dittography of the phrase at the beginning (which is exactly the same except הָעִיר [ha’ir] follows it). The text is redundant because it refers twice to the same group of people. The Hebrew text reads: “And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to him and the rest of the people Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, carried into exile to Babylon.” The text has also been divided up to create two shorter sentences to better conform with contemporary English style. 10 But he#tn Heb “Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard.” However, the subject is clear from the preceding and contemporary English style would normally avoid repeating the proper name and title. left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing. He gave them fields and vineyards at that time.
11 Now King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had issued orders concerning Jeremiah. He had passed them on through Nebuzaradan, the captain of his royal guard,#tn Heb “And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon commanded concerning Jeremiah by the hand of Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying.” Since Nebuchadnezzar is at Riblah (v. 6) and Nebuzaradan and the other officers named in the next verse are at Jerusalem, the vav consecutive imperfect should again be translated as a pluperfect (see 38:2 and the translator’s notes there for explanation). For the meaning of “through” or “through the agency of” for the phrase בְּיַד (bÿyad) see BDB 391 s.v. יָד 5.d. The sentence has been broken up to better conform with contemporary English style. 12 “Find Jeremiah#tn Heb “Get [or fetch] him.” The referent is supplied for clarity. and look out for him.#tn Or “take care of him”; Heb “set your eyes on him.” For the meaning of this idiom see BDB 963 s.v. שִׂים 2.c and compare 24:6 where the phrase “for good” is added. Do not do anything to harm him,#tn Heb “Don’t do anything evil [= harmful] to him.” but do with him whatever he tells you.” 13 So Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard, Nebushazban, who was a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer, who was a high official,#tn See the translator’s notes on 39:3, 9 for the names and titles here. and all the other officers of the king of Babylon 14 sent and had Jeremiah brought from the courtyard of the guardhouse. They turned him over to Gedaliah,#sn Gedaliah. This is the first reference to this individual whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed governor over the people who were left to live in Judah (cf. 40:5; 2 Kgs 25:22). His father was the man who spoke up for Jeremiah when he was accused of being a false prophet by some of the priests and prophets (26:24). His grandfather was the royal secretary under Josiah who brought the discovery of the book of the law to Josiah’s attention, read it to him, and was involved in helping Josiah institute his reforms (2 Kgs 22:8-10). the son of Ahikam and the grandson of Shaphan, to take him home with him.#tn The meaning of the last phrase is uncertain. An alternate translation is “to take him home with him.” The text reads literally “to bring him into the house.” However, it is unclear whether “the house” refers to Jeremiah’s house or to Gedaliah’s. The fact that Nebuzaradan later offers Jeremiah the option of going back to Gedaliah (40:5) suggests that the house is here Gedaliah’s where Jeremiah would be looked out for in accord with Nebuchadnezzar’s command (v. 12). But Jeremiah stayed among the people.#tn Many translate this last clause as a conclusion or summary remark, “So Jeremiah stayed…” However, it is better to translate it as an adversative because it probably refers to the fact that rather than staying with Gedaliah in the governor’s residence Jeremiah stayed among the people. That is how he wound up being led off as a prisoner to Ramah. See further the study note on 40:1. According to IBHS 550 §33.2.1d the vav (ו) consecutive can have either of these values (see examples 11 and 12 for the adversative or contrastive nuance).
Ebed Melech Is Promised Deliverance because of His Faith
15#sn Jer 39:15-18. This incident is out of chronological order (see Jer 38:7-13). It is placed here either due to a desire not to interrupt the sequential ordering of events centering on Jeremiah’s imprisonment and his release (38:14–39:14) or to contrast God’s care and concern for the faithful (Ebed-Melech who, though a foreigner, trusted in God) with his harsh treatment of the faithless (Zedekiah who, though informed of God’s will, was too weak-willed in the face of opposition by his courtiers to carry it out). Now the Lord had spoken to Jeremiah while he was still confined in the courtyard of the guardhouse,#tn Heb “Now the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he…saying.” The form of this clause is disjunctive showing that it does not follow the preceding events in either chronological or logical sequence. For a discussion of the form and function of such disjunctive clauses see IBHS 650-52 §39.2.3. This example most closely fits the description and function of example 12, Ruth 4:18, 21-22 on p. 652. 16 “Go#sn Even though Jeremiah was confined to the courtyard of the guardhouse, he was still free to entertain visitors (32:2, 8). Moreover, Ebed-Melech was an official attached to the royal court and would have had access to the courtyard of the guardhouse (38:7, 13). Jeremiah would not have had to leave the courtyard of the guardhouse to “go and tell” him something. and tell Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, ‘The Lord God of Israel who rules over all says, “I will carry out against this city what I promised. It will mean disaster and not good fortune for it.#tn Heb “Behold, I will bring to pass my words against this city for evil/disaster and not for good/good fortune.” For the form of the verb מֵבִי ([mevi] Kethib, מֵבִיא [mevi’] Qere) see GKC 206-7 §74.k, where the same form is noted for the Kethib in 2 Sam 5:2; 1 Kgs 21:21; Jer 19:15 all of which occur before a word beginning with א. For the nuance “carry out” (or “bring to pass”) see BDB 99 s.v. בּוֹא Hiph.2.b. When that disaster happens, you will be there to see it.#tn Heb “And they [= my words for disaster] will come to pass [= happen] before you on that day [i.e., the day that I bring them to pass/carry them out].” 17 But I will rescue you when it happens.#tn Heb “But I will rescue you on that day” (referring to the same day mentioned in the preceding verse). I, the Lord, affirm it!#tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.” You will not be handed over to those whom you fear.#sn Some commentators see this as a reference to the princes from whose clutches Ebed-Melech delivered Jeremiah (38:7-13). However, it is clear that in this context it refers to those that he would fear when the Lord brings about the threatened disaster, i.e., the Babylonians who are attacking the city. 18 I will certainly save you. You will not fall victim to violence.#sn Heb “you will not fall by the sword.” In the context this would include death in battle and execution as a prisoner of war. You will escape with your life#tn Heb “your life will be to you for spoil.” For the meaning of this idiom see the study note on 21:9 and compare the usage in 21:9; 38:2; 45:4. because you trust in me. I, the Lord, affirm it!”’”#tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”